Ireland’s gin story 2023
From innovative distilleries to gin-making schools, the world of Irish gin is tasty, varied and full of character
The story of Ireland’s gin takes you to some unexpected corners of the island: from record-breaking dairy cows in County Cork and organic apple orchards in County Kilkenny to foraging for wild bog myrtle on the banks of Lough Erne in County Fermanagh or for the shyest of seaweeds under a County Donegal full moon.
And in typical Irish flair, you’ll encounter the most pleasant personalities along the road, including cutting-edge producers who depend on age-old distilling techniques to make a spirit that is really of its country.
Irish gins to seek out
Moira and James Doherty in County Donegal manufacture An Dúlamán Irish Maritime Gin in small quantities from their hand-beaten copper pot still, Méabh, utilizing local seaweeds such as pepper dulse, Ireland’s ‘truffle of the sea’.
“This shyest of coastal gems can only be gathered during a full moon when the tides and the wild Atlantic cooperate in our favour,” James explains, revealing the particular moon’s phase documented on every bottle’s wax seal.
Over in County Down, manufacturers of Echlinville Single Estate Irish Pot Still Gin blend local floor-malted barley with whin bush flowers and Strangford Lough seaweed to create distinct scents of the land and sea.
The same distillery also makes Jawbox, a traditional dry gin scented with botanicals, including native Belfast Black Mountain heather. And Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin mixes eastern gunpowder tea with local botanicals like meadowsweet from Leitrim’s aromatic hedgerows.
At County Cork’s Ballyvolane House hotel, a renowned Droimeann cow who had 39 calves over a 49-year existence has been brought back in spirit in a cow-shed-turned-distillery.
For producer Justin Green, Bertha’s Revenge Irish Milk Gin highlights “the dairy farming legacy of Ballyvolane, our usage of whey alcohol in the gin, and our mutual appreciation of the exquisite and kind people that can be found only in Ireland.”
At Dublin City Gin they utilize organic rhubarb cultivated along the city’s Grand Canal to flavour their spirit, while odd alcohol bases include potatoes (at St Patrick’s Distillery in Cork, who create a Sloe & Honey Gin alongside their Classic variety) and apples (Highbank Organic Crystal Irish Gin) (Highbank Organic Crystal Irish Gin).
Meet the makers
Many of these distilleries provide tours that are as distinctive as their characterful gins.
Hitch a tractor tour of County Kilkenny’s gorgeous Highbank Organic Orchards in the company of Rod Calder-Potts, one of Ireland’s most enthusiastic food and drink producers, followed by a sampling at Ireland’s tiniest distillery tucked in their 17th-century stonebuilt coachyard.
Then pop down the road to the Ging family farm where Ballykeefe Gin is created from a potato-based spirit, alongside a field-to-glass whiskey from their farm’s barley.
Discover the unique recipe at County Kerry’s Dingle Distillery where fragrant local fuchsia, hawthorn, heather and rowan berries are both macerated overnight and infused into Dingle Original Gin through a taste basket in the still’s neck.
Or have afternoon tea at the historic Echlinville Manor House and a field-to-glass tour of its glass-walled still house with magnificent views across old countryside.
Further inland in County Down, have a pre-tour drink before starting on a botanical trip and guided tasting experience at Rademon Estate Distillery, Northern Ireland’s first award-winning artisan distillery where wild clover imbues Shortcross Gin with the exquisite scent of wild meadows.
And over in the lakelands of Fermanagh, familiarise yourself with The Boatyard Distillery which creates an Old Tom Gin with Wild Turkey bourbon barrels and honey as well as the Boatyard Double Gin with organic wheat spirit flavored with sweet gale from the family farm.
Your own particular gin experience
Still curious? You’re in luck as there are many more unique experiences to uncover, from a gin-hued tour around Lough Derg deep in the heart of Ireland to Listoke Distillery and Gin School in County Louth — expect to leave with your own 700ml bottle of custom-made gin, plus some new pals to boot.
Take a gin tour through Castlebar in County Mayo with a tailored gin trail through 13 local pubs, experiencing award-winning Irish gins including Von Hallers (County Leitrim), Mór Gin (County Offaly) and Thin Gin (County Waterford) (County Waterford). Rock on to Russell’s Saloon & Gin Emporium in Dundalk, County Louth or Tribeton in Galway city to taste-test their excellent assortment of Irish and foreign gins.
Settle inside the Gin Library at County Antrim’s Galgorm Resort with its 80-page gin menu. Or pull yourself a seat at Andy’s Bar in Monaghan town to partake of barman Kevin Redmond’s encyclopedic knowledge of gins from near and far.
However you approach the growing tale of Irish gin, you’re likely to find yourself in fine company.
More amazing gin distilleries around the island
1. Woodlab Distillery, County Tyrone
Distillery, gin school, tourist centre, even virtual gin tastings… Woodlab Distillery does it everything!
2. Lough Ree Distillery, County Longford
This microdistillery was the first to distill peat as a botanical in its distinctive Sling Shot gin.
3.Skellig Six18 Distillery, County Kerry
Made with botanicals foraged from the adjacent beach, this handmade gin provides a true flavor of the Atlantic.
4.Blackwater Distillery, County Waterford
Don’t miss the opportunity to take part in one of Blackwater Distillery’s gin and tonic workshops!
5.Hinch Distillery, County Down
Develop your own gin recipe with the skilled aid of the Hinch distillers – producers of the award-winning Ninth Wave gin.
Topic: Ireland’s gin story